1. Go Green
Look up sawyers in your area. Some of them sell green wood. You’ll have to sticker it and let it dry, but you might save up to half over the cost of kiln-dried lumber. Manufacturers of mobile lumber mills such as Woodmizer will help you find a local sawyer.
There are good finds of old furniture or other wooden objects that can be had at garage sales, estate sales, and online sites like Craigslist and eBay. Knots member TomHigby specifically looks for old baseball bats priced at a buck or less at yard sales. The top quality ash used in bats makes excellent handles for chisels and turning tools. He’s also used them for parts on Windsor chairs.
3. Dumpster Dive
Contributing editor Gary Rogowski says skids are a good source of free lumber. “Pallet wood can yield good finds. Yes, with a nail hole or two, but surprising species.” Kerry Marshall’s wine barrel chair is an example of how great stuff can be made from reclaimed wood.
4. Don’t be a Wood Snob
Pine and construction lumber (carefully chosen and dried) from a big box store are economical and can be used to build nice furniture. Pine: Capturing the special charm of a common timber talks about some of the finer qualities of this underappreciated wood.
5. Build a Network
Use Facebook, Twitter, and email to let friends know you are on the market for unused wood. You’ll be surprised at what’s out there.
6. Make Your Jigs, Workbench & Router Table
Almost any pricey commercially made jig for a power tool can be shopmade from scrap in under an hour. Check out All About Hand Tool Jigs to get started. You can also save by making your own router table and bench.
7. Do Your Homework and Shop Smart
Knotscott encourages woodworkers to study up on the going prices of woodworking tools. If you know what the current models cost, you'll recognize the deals when they come along. He also suggests keeping an eye out for bargains with e-alerts. eBay allows you to use alerts to track auctions and Lowe’s sends an e-newsletter that announces sales.
8. Buy Secondhand
It’s a risk, but it can save you big money. Gary Rogowski says, “For $100 you can put together a handplane that is every bit as good a $400 one.” Stantheman recently saw a 14-in. Powermatic bandsaw going for $50 at auction. Another Knots member, Heartwould, checks for tools at pawn shops and clearance sales. Antiques stores where hand planes and hand tools are sold as decorations may yield good finds.
John White, an expert woodworker and teacher, says, “You only need the most basic tools. There hasn't been a new hand tool or measuring tool invented in the past 100 years that is a must-have for a shop.” Thorvald encourages woodworkers to stick to basic equipment that performs multiple functions, and stay away from the specialty tools geared for specific tasks. Set up Shop for $5,000 talks about which tools are essential for woodworking.
10. Pay Attention
Always be safe. Doctor visits are expensive. Use protection and make sure your tools are in good shape. Download Woodworking Injuries: A hand surgeon looks at how accidents happen to learn about shop safety.